Saturday, August 14, 2004

My Reason

This posting contains my answer to the volunteer application question:

Why do you want to join the Peace Corps?

Over the last four years, I have slowly been undergoing a transformation. I have spent a great deal of time contemplating and studying what goes on inside of me. I have been on a quest to understand myself and grow my inner peace. Through this process I have begun to learn what truly matters to me. It probably sounds corny; as the peace in me has grown, I have felt more and more that I must let go of what physical items I have, and use the knowledge and skills I have gained to help others in need.

I have always had a great deal of empathy, and gentleness with others, which has helped me quickly become comfortable while in a different culture. I have found that as I experience a new culture, aspects of me grow and change becoming “larger” and better. I feel as though I get a deeper understanding of what it is to be human, and as a result, the “peace” in me grows.

I know there is much more I could be contributing to the world. I know that the Peace Corps is not for everyone. From what I have read and heard, I believe that the Peace Corps is for me. I believe that the Peace Corps would provide me a wonderful opportunity to give my time and skills in a way that uniquely adds to the world.

The Application

The Peace Corps is surprisingly tech-nofied. Their online volunteer application process is both smooth and well thought-out. Some of the questions they ask are also surprising – because the questions do not (and often can not) show up on standard business job application forms. For example:

  • How much debt do you have?
  • How do you plan to cover that debt while in the Peace Corps?[You only make $168 USD per month. This small amount of money is designed to be just enough to cover your food and lodging at the same living-level as the locals]
  • Have you ever worked for the CIA?

There are also some interesting open-ended questions like:

  • Describe cross-cultural experiences you have had.
  • Describe why you want to join the Peace Corps.

Besides the in-depth application form, there is also a comprehensive “Health Status Review”.
The whole online application process took me about four hours to complete.

A few days after I submitted my application, I received a postcard in the mail. The postcard was a notification stating my application had been routed to the regional office serving my area and was now being processed. A couple of days later I received a phone call from my recruiter to setup an interview!

I was again surprised, this time by how fast the Peace Corps responded to my application.
The recruiter described the documentation I would need to bring to the interview, and also sent me some additional documentation to fill out – two skill addenda (computer science and health extension). During the application process, I had listed the skills I possessed. No I was asked to describe those skill areas in detail via the addenda. This took some time, and eventually I ended up with an eight page document describing my computer science skills!

I found the whole process unique and exciting.

The Beginning

When I step back and look at my life, I can see how it follows certain "standard equations". It's actually not that hard to seem them -- If you step back far enough. I think I spent a lot of my time pretending they were not there, or at least believing that I was not following their intoxicating logic...

Deep inside myself, these standard equations had carefully deactivated and contained the best part of myself -- my core. Deactivated, but not destroyed, this core was fortunately preserved. As my life progressed something unexpected began to chip away at the power of the standard equations. Very often I made mistakes; every so often, the results of these mistakes had a wondrous and unexpected side-effect. They quietly pointed out flaws in the standard equations. At first, I did not see these flaws because I was too busy (a key ingredient to the standard equations). As I started to slow down my life, I began to see the flaws, and the logic of the standard equations slowly became less intoxicating...

From now on, I am going to try to follow equations that honor my core. I know when I am getting close, because I get this warm, peaceful feeling inside that makes me smile, and that is intoxicating!